Clever design has shaved 28 per cent off the cost of cooling tower access equipment, netting a Hutchinson Builders refurbishment project tens of thousands of dollars in material savings and thousands more in installation time.

The refurbishment of the gutted 22-storey building in Ann Street, Brisbane, included the installation of four large cooling towers on a rooftop tightly constrained by space.

Finding the access platforms recommended by the manufacturer unworkable, Hutchinson Builders took the layout to height safety specialist, Workplace Access & Safety. The resulting redesign yielded impressive savings and added longevity.

While the cooling tower manufacturer’s drawings called for platforms encircling the towers, consultation with service technicians revealed that, although uncompromised access was essential, just four points on each of the cooling towers required attention.

Workplace Access & Safety’s redesign provided clear and easy access to maintenance points with compact, two-tiered platforms that worked within space constraints and slashed the amount of material required.

The cooling tower access platforms were built from aluminium rated for 600kg loads rather than the fibreglass-reinforced plastic included in the original design.

Engineers were concerned the plastic’s protective coating would be compromised during fabrication, allowing the material to bloom and deteriorate under the harsh Australian sun.

Hutchinson Builder’s managing director, Scott Hutchinson, said time pressures were amplified at the site and the goal was to minimise crane time.

Any lost time would be readily measured; the cooling tower platforms would be the last crane job following the installation of roof-mounted plumbing and electrical services.

“Hutchinson Builders is not wasteful and crane time can burn through budgets very quickly,” Hutchinson said.

Installation of the 70-square-metre platforms took just 10 days.

The secret was a great deal of modular prefabrication, which Workplace Access & Safety’s Adam Wearing said reduced time spent on site by 70 to 80 per cent.

Installers had to work up to 4.5 metres above the roof of the 22-storey building.

“Just falling 4.5 metres onto concrete is enough to kill someone but coupled with the prospect of falling all the way down to street level meant any incident could be truly catastrophic,” Wearing said.

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